Nadler Statement on the Introduction of the Patient Privacy Protection Act

Mar 25, 2004

Washington, DC -- At a press conference today with women's groups, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced the introduction of the Patient Privacy Protection Act, legislation that will clarify that the doctor-patient privilege is protected under federal law. His statement on the legislation follows:

I am pleased to be here today with my Senator and my colleagues to introduce the Patient Privacy Protection Act.

This legislation is necessary because, once again, the Ashcroft Justice Department has chosen to abuse the fundamental privacy rights of American women. Not satisfied to attack women’s constitutional rights at every opportunity, this administration has now made the outrageous and unfounded claim that women’s most private medical information has absolutely no legal protection under federal law.

That is both untrue and dangerous.

Once again, this Justice Department has chosen to force its agenda through lawless intimidation. The threat is plain: if the Bush administration doesn’t approve of your choices, they will seize your most personal information. The law doesn’t allow that, and this bill will make clear what everyone knows to be the case. I hope it will make it clear even to the legal eagles in the Justice Department.

This legislation was made necessary because the Bush administration is in court trying to enforce a blatantly unconstitutional ban on safe and necessary abortion procedures. The President signed this bill knowing full well that the Supreme Court had only recently struck down a virtually identical law.

Now, in an effort to defend its illegal actions, the Ashcroft Justice Department has subpoenaed the medical records of every woman who had an abortion at several hospitals around the country. What is even worse, although the law protects the privacy of these women, they cannot go to court to demand that their rights be protected without going public and giving up the very privacy the law protects. It is a dastardly catch - 22, and an affront to the rule of law.

Let no one have any doubts; the law is clear. These women’s privacy is protected. The Ashcroft Justice Department is violating the law. We are introducing this legislation to make that clear, not to fix a problem in current law. Were this administration to show any respect for the rule of law, this legislation would not have been necessary.

I urge the Bush administration to call off its attack dogs, to respect the rights of women, and to respect the law. Until they do so, this legislation, unfortunately, is necessary.